News / Middle East

    Corruption Probe Seen as Challenge to Turkish PM's Authority

    Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
    Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
    Dorian Jones
    Turkish police have detained at least 49 people in Istanbul and Ankara as part of a high-level corruption probe into alleged bribery connected to public tenders.  The move is being widely interpreted as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

    Istanbul’s police chief Huseyin Capkin was dismissed Thursday, in the latest fallout from one of Turkey's largest-ever judicial probes into government corruption. The sons of senior ministers, including the Interior Minister, were detained, as were numerous high-level bureaucrats, and dozens of senior police officers have been fired or reassigned. The government claims the officers failed to inform their superiors about the probes. Observers say the investigation is expected to grow, and they predict that prosecutors will call for the parliamentary immunity of the implicated ministers to be rescinded.

    Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Group think tank says the investigation is one most serious in the country’s history.

    "It's revolutionary; nothing of the kind happened in this country before. Of course, corruptions always existed like everywhere in the world. But the scale and the persons involved, indicted - it's unique," said Aktar.

    The investigation centers on the alleged laundering of money from Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Tehran, and alleged bribery in the awarding of state contracts for land development.  The Turkish media have broadcast pictures of millions of dollars in cash, found at the home of one of the three sons of government ministers detained, as well as the home of a senior official of the state-owned Halkbank.

    But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is taking a robust stand against the investigation, claiming it is part of a conspiracy against his government.  

    "There is a very dirty operation here,” Erdoğan said Thursday. "Some circles inside and outside of Turkey are seeking to hinder Turkey from its rapid growth."
     
    Observers say the prime minister sees a powerful Islamist movement led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the probe. Gulen's followers are widely believed to be influential both in the judiciary and the police.

    But Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denies the accusation. He was once a strong backer of the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party, particularly in its struggle against the once-dominant army. But tensions have been on the rise in the last 18 months.

    Asli Aydintasbas, a political columnist for Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper, says Erdogan will try and use the struggle with Gulen’s supporters to his advantage.
     
    "There is no doubt that part of this is the power struggle between the Gulenists and the government. The government’s line will be foreign plot and the Gulenists are working for foreign interests - Israel, US. It's in their interest; Erdogan has always benefited from looking like victim, David and Golia[th]," said Aydintasbas.
     
    Observers say the government will be keen to make the judicial investigations be about democracy rather than corruption. But analyst Aktar says if the allegations stick, the consequences for the AK Party could be severe.

    "The constituency of the ruling party is composed mainly of destitute masses, and the sums involved mentioned in the press, millions and billions, that might have indeed a quite negative effect on the AK, which is preparing for the next round of elections 2014 and 2015," said Aktar.

    Turkey is heading into an 18-month election cycle, with crucial local elections in March, followed by presidential elections in which Erdoğan is widely expected to run and a general election in 2015. The anti-corruption probe could not come at a worse time for the government, and many of its supporters insist this is not a coincidence. Observers say how successful the government is in convincing the country that the probe is more a conspiracy than a corruption investigation could determine the outcome of the upcoming elections.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.